Tandem Project

Voices of Emirati Women Writers

Workshop & Outreach Project

During the last decade Emirati women have ventured into a great variety of occupations and art spheres due to their ever-increasing educational achievements and sustained by state politics of modernization. Whereas some artists in the field of sculpture and painting, jewellery, and performing arts are already well known to an international audience, only a few female writers have achieved to be recognized and acknowledged for their novels, short stories, poetry, and children’s books in the UAE and beyond. 

In combining expertise from AGYA members Prof. Dr. Laila Prager from the field of ethnology and anthropology, Prof. Dr. Majid Al-Busafi with expertise in education, gender and physical activity and Prof. Dr. Shahd Alshammari from Literature Studies, the project tackled this lack of representation from widespread angles and with a highly interdisciplinary approach implementing three major steps: Qualitative Interviews, Workshop, Children’s Education Game.

Researching the Female Writers Literary Landscape 

Setting the ground, the project partner were elucidating how women in the UAE – a country that until the 1970s was still known for its high rate of illiteracy – have come to decide to become authors. Qualitative interviews were undertaken with female Emirati authors that focused on subjects such as their career pathways, family background, achievements, and the various challenges and obstacles they are facing at home, at their work, and with regard to UAE society and at the international community of writers at large.

Creating a New Literary Society of Emirati Female Writers

With female Emirati participants online, a two-day workshop titled ‘Agency, Female Subjectivity, and the Literary Imagination: Encountering Emirati Women Writers’ Voices’ including a public event has set a starting point for networking activities and to reflect on key topics in discussion with a broader audience.The workshop completed the empirical research of the interviews been taken, by organising focus group discussions in a more intimate environment and by building a networking group of female Emirati writers, exchanging best practice methods to overcome societal and international impediments, but also to discuss questions related to the process of story-telling, the selection of literary topics, and the production of the literary text, including publishing. The newly formed group of Emirati authors as one result has started to work on a publication of an anthology their writings.

AGYA was honoured to welcome the famous emirati author, award-winning filmmaker and Instructor in the Social Science division at NYU Abu Dhabi Saba Karim Khan to the workshop, who instructed the group in a full training: peer-to-peer mentoring and consultancy work with the participants, and a training session on `How to publish as a non-white person from the Middle East? Navigating gender, racial, and political challenges`. The Emirati female authors invited reflected their experiences on how to achieve (self-)empowerment, agency, and further leadership qualities by becoming or being a female writer. In six sessions, they discussed and presented their achievements and examined the various impediments they are facing (as women) in the literary and publishing world.

To make the vibrant and innovative literary scene of Emirati female writers more visible to the international public, which in many ways is still unaware about the wide array of topic and genres covered by female authors from the Gulf region, a public audience was invited to join in for a discussion in an online live event on: ‛Paths to Leadership as Female Emirati Writers and Daily Obstacles’. AGYA alumna Prof. Dr. Laila Prager and AGYA member Dr. Shahd Al Shammari got into conversation with the authors Amal Alsahlawi and Maitha al Khayat and opened jointly the stage for sharing ideas for future impact.

Addressing Issues of Common Concern in Creative Outreach Formats

The project took the opportunity to highlight one key issue that is affecting society at large in the Gulf region: the massive lack of physical activity of women and more dramatically of children as studies show. Up until now, cultural examples – e.g. in books that would sustain such a change in physical activity conception are missing entirely. Laila Prager and Majid Al-Busafi jointly with the network created a a first concept of a children’s card game that includes and combines education on physical activity with stories written by some of the invited writers.

Upcoming Events

The Women’s Writer Anthology will be published with Sailpublishing from Abu Dhabi, UAE, and presented at the Sharjah International Book Fair in November 2022.The children’s card game will launch at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2023.

Disciplines Involved
Literature, Ethnology, Physical Education
Event Date
18 - 19 December 2021
Project Title
Scripting Female Subjectivity and Agency in the UAE: Encountering Emirati Women’s Literary Voices (Part I, 2021)
Funding Scheme
Tandem Project
Countries Involved
Germany, United Arab Emirates, Oman